Television

"Viewers complaining there's nothing to watch on weekends, are actually not watching TV at all!" : Deepak Segal -Star India senior VP content & communications

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With the Synergy Communications' produced India's Child Genius, Star World makes its big time foray into indigenously produced English programming. While it may not have a lot riding on it in terms of TRP expectations, the show, hopes Star India's senior V-P, content and communications, Deepak Segal, will pull in family viewership as well as give a positive direction to experimentation within genres.

Segal has been one of the drivers of innovative programming on the Star Network, including a comedy Shanno Ki Shaadi, a weekly soap Karvachauth and a magazine show Tele Duniya, which were announced in late February this year, along with a massive talent hunt, Indian Superstar. While he is reticent to talk about the new shows, Segal, a veteran in the Star fold, spoke about the direction Star's existing shows are taking, in a candid conversation with indiantelevision.com's Aparna Joshi.





Extracts from the chat -

What does India's Child Genius mean for Star World?



I am a firm believer in the entertainment value of Indian English programming. It may be a fraction of the one billion population that understands the language and watches English language shows, but remember, we have more people speaking English in this country than in England.

Niche programming like ICG is about value-adds, it is about positioning. It would be a bit sad if you relied just on the TVRs to gauge the success of a show like ICG.

Apart from ICG, which are the new shows being planned for Star World in the coming months?



Star World has a limited outlet for Indian programming as of now, so apart from the acquisitions that are done out of Hong Kong, nothing else has been planned from here.

What about Star Plus shows like the mega scale Hatim, which hasn't really picked up as expected?



Well, yes. Hatim is doing ok - we hit 9.4 and 9.7 at one time too, but since the exams have finished, it has not picked up as thought.

But the show hasn't caught the fancy of kids?



It did, at a stage. However, with the holidays setting in, kids seem to be watching more of television in various other dayparts. Since they are being saturated with kids' programming throughout the day, the appointment viewing for Hatim has been diluted.



Yes, this has been surprising, since we had a lot of specials lined up during the holidays.

In fact, during exam times, the repeat telecasts of serials like Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi and Kahaani Ghar Ghar Kii shot up quite a bit, maybe because the mothers were sitting up with their children and then watching the serials the next day in the afternoon!

"The viewing on weekends continues to be flirtatious. The fight has now really narrowed only to prime time"

What about your weekend shows?



Weekend shows, I don't think, have caught anybody's fancy. Ours, as well as anybody else's. The viewing on weekends continues to be flirtatious. The fight has now really narrowed only to prime time.

The closest rival, Sony has launched 'Yeh Meri Life Hai', but it has not really got rave reviews in the first week...



Then that's the reason I would be more wary of the show. Remember Sholay, which did not do good business in the first few weeks!

Again, I think the four year cycle of programming is upon us again. A lot of last year's programming was still being dubbed the 'saas bahu' kind of programming, but actually within those four years, we have made so many changes in the programming...like Ansh coming into Kyunki....but maybe our communication has not been accurate on this score.

What about shows like 'Saara Akash', which started on a different note and reverted to the family drama...



No, that was merely for seven episodes. Now we are back to the action track. Now we have Rajasthan and Pakistan friendship angles, and it is being received well...

Are you talking to any fresh production houses or are you banking on the bankable ones for new shows?



We are more or less sticking to the established ones for the months ahead, but yes, we are looking at the newer ones too, but I don't have a slot for them right now.

What will be the strategy for weekend programming?



Viewers who have been complaining that there's nothing to watch on weekends, are actually not watching TV at all!

So, will the filmi performances be good enough for the weekends?



See, stickiness for these televised events turns out to be more than for other programming on weekends. Now, when there are things to watch across channels, no one seems to be really watching anything. The audience has a regimented lifestyle from Monday to Friday, coming home to watch the soaps...obviously on weekends they would rather do something different than wait for a soap to start.

Also, the theatre going habit is coming back. Two decades ago, when the theatres were in a bad shape, you had only the lumpen elements hanging around them. TV had assumed a certain significance at that time. But now, if you go to a multiplex on a weekend, you can easily spend four to five hours, shopping, playing games and eating out. So, where would TV viewing fit into all that?

That's the problem with Star World too. Why aren't the ratings coming? Because the people who watch Star World have many better things to do, including parties and events. Appointment viewing in such cases is rare, because they have their DVDs and other gadgets and getaways. So, you will never get TVRs of 17 or 18 on such channels.

What about movies? Any good acquisitions coming your way?



No, actually we are not into big acquisitions. Yes, there are some quality products in our kitty. And another thing is that ever since we pioneered dubbing action movies on Star Gold, it has turned out to be smart programming. Now, everyone else, including HBO, is doing it. If you see, Star Gold has really worked on the strength of its innovative programming.

What about the Indian Superstar, the talent hunt that was announced end February but has not taken off yet?



We announced it and then there was a crowd of talent hunts announced by everyone....it's ridiculous the way everyone is saying that Karan Johar is part of my talent hunt, Mahesh Bhatt is a part of it....We thought it wouldn't do to jump into it now, as we are seriously committed to culminating our effort into a film, and couldn't afford to dilute its equity. We thought we would let others do it first and then show them how it's to be done, the right way.

But wouldn't the novelty value of a talent hunt wear off by then?



The novelty aspect of aspiring to be a cine star is never ephemeral. As long as it is positioned well enough, and is fructifiable, it should work.

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